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Extracts From Books I & II

What's It Like To Be  Enlightened?

Consciousness Without

No-Self And Consciousness


It’s hard to imagine how you could experience anything without a self, not to mention how you would function. Nonetheless, experience continues without a self and so does functioning.


Part of the difficulty in understanding no-self is that you likely confuse consciousness with self-consciousness. But the two are distinct. And it is possible to have consciousness without having self-consciousness. 


One way of understanding this is by pointing out the fact that you easily recognize this possibility with animals. Generally speaking, animals are conscious but they are not self-conscious, with a few exceptions. That is, animals don’t have a self. Yet they have conscious experiences and function perfectly well in their environments. So, although you might initially imagine no-self as a non-conscious and non-functional state, this is a mistake. The conscious experiences and functioning of animals demonstrate this. 


To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the human experience of no-self is equivalent to animal consciousness. Since I am human, I have no way of really knowing what animal consciousness is. I’m just citing animal consciousness to establish that consciousness can occur in the absence of self-consciousness and also that it can be a functional state.


So, no-self is a form of human consciousness. It is a form of human consciousness in which there is no self; it is human consciousness without self-consciousness. Yet it is a perfectly functional form of consciousness.

(End Book I Quote)

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